Varanis — 1626 0647 Grazelanders
In Clearwine, a little before heading to Boldhome. [[[s01:session-30|Session 30]]]
Note: Text in italics represents the Grazelander language, except where they are used for emphasis.
Quelle surprise. Serala is in the stables. For once though, not crooning at Pag and grooming, but instead getting stuck into that less ladylike, but just as important, endeavours. Mucking out. Grumbling cheerfully in her own tongue as she does so, chiding her horse for not just doing it all outside, but instead making her deal with the resultant semi-digested-grass-balls. She doesn’t seem to object though. There’s something so simple and honest about cleaning up horseshit, when set against the hell of politics.
Finarvi has had Berra’s version of events leading up to his joining you all, but it had lots of intriguing gaps and he is anxious to get Serala’s take on things. Especially the tensions in the group. Hence beer. Seeing what Serala is up to, Finarvi is going to put the beer jug down somewhere safe and grab a rake and join in.
Serala sees her cousin and offers a friendly grin and a gentle shoulder charge before settling to her half of the stables. “So. Liking life off the plains, brother-mine? Taking you back to the old days in battlecamps?”
“Far too much. At least no-one’s actively trying to kill us. For now.”
Finarvi looks anxious. “Oh no. Did I jinx it?”
“Oh, you’re so right. And to be fair, if no-one is trying to kill us, we usually seem to come up with some sort of chaos that involves Rajar accidentally sitting on something and squashing them half to death. Probably Sid.” Serala is – probably – joking with this last. Although there is an edge to the long suffering in her tones.
“I’ll be sure not to stand anywhere Rajar might think of sitting,” Finarvi jokes.
Serala shakes her head, “Takes more than the odd comment to jinx us. Pretty sure we manage it just fine, all by ourselves!” Should anyone be near enough to overhear, they might note that Serala’s phrasing is more light and fluid than is her wont when talking amongst the group. Finarvi and Serala claimed kinship already, but if they hadn’t, it would be obvious with the ease of the conversation. “He didn’t really sit on Sid,” she clarifies. “He ripped his arm off instead.” Droll humour, right? Riiiight??
“Ah, I heard about the leg chopping. Arms too, eh? No wonder Sid gets paid danger money.” Finarvi strives for a lighthearted tone, but the undertone of ‘what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-involved-in’ comes through.
“Serala? Are you about?” Varanis, calling out in trade talk, is poking her head around the door to the stables.
Serala turns over the now-fresher looking straw, searching for any more bits to throw into the barrow, before going to get some fresh to bulk up Pag’s bedding some more. Spoil her horse rotten? Well, yes, of course. “Sid enjoys it. And unicorn-girl tries to corrupt him half the time, so it all balances out.” She grins towards Finarvi, before raising her voice, calling towards the door. “Here, Varanis. You’re just in time to do some work.”
Varanis enters the stables, giving her eyes a chance to adjust to the lower light level. “Oh! Hello Finarvi,” she says with a smile, once she spots him. She turns to Serala, “What kind of work?” There’s a note of caution in those words.
“It’s alright, we’ve done most of the smelly part,” Finarvi offers with a grin.
Serala tuts, “I’m sure we discussed leading from the front and not expecting other people to do what you don’t do yourself.” Apparently the bantering with Finarvi has let her guard down a little, she is openly teasing for once. “But if you only want to do the nice jobs…”
Varanis laughs and looks down at her blue wool tunic. “I’m sure it’s good for my character, if not my clothing. At least it’s not one of my nicest ones. What do you want me to do?”
Finarvi stops spreading straw and leans back, wanting to see what Serala will suggest.
Serala gestures to the barrow half filled with dung and straw. “Just wheel that out and tip it on the rest of the heap. We are done here.” Her blue-grey eyes sparkle with amusement, “I think your tunic will survive.” She pads to the doorway, looking out at the dusk skies drawing in. “Then it might be time for a fire to warm our aching bones near. Those of us who have done the work, at least, need such, I think?” She looks to Finarvi, checking that he finds that an acceptable suggestion.
“Absolutely.” He reaches over and hefts the beer jug. “And fine refreshment shared between friends to warm hearts as well as bones.” It sounds like a Trade-talk flattery he’s picked up somewhere, but he manages to make it sound sincere.
Varanis looks at the barrow, looks back at Serala, then nods. “I can do that.” She grasps the handles firmly and lifts. The barrow wobbles precariously a moment before she finds the balance. It takes another moment to get it moving in the right direction and there is definitely a bit of wobbling, but she makes it through the door.
There’s a loud curse from outside the door, followed by some mumbling that falls silent. A moment later, Varanis reappears, asking for a shovel.
Finarvi casts Serala a look.
Serala doesn’t laugh. There isn’t even a twitch of expression as she studies Varanis’ face for long moments. Finarvi gets a look in return, “She needed training young, that filly,” she notes, before catching up a trio of shovels, throwing one towards her cousin and rather more carefully handing Varanis another, before she goes out. Many hands make light work.
It’s not a big mess, and Varanis sets to scooping it back quickly, muttering to herself as she does.
Finarvi raises an eyebrow. He’s impressed. He catches the shovel and follows Serala out to help Varanis. “The filly seems willing enough to be trained,” he observes, trying not to let a smile into his voice. He might be commenting on the consistency of dung, for all the inflection in his voice.
Serala lends a hand, but doesn’t take the barrow once completed. Something tells her that Varanis would take offence at that, so she does an excellent line in ‘leaning on her shovel while someone else works’ once complete. Of course, there is one drawback to Serala’s suggestion of chilling at a campfire now… she seems blissfully unaware of the sweet scent of Horse clinging to her. “She has promise. She was simply given her head too long and now it is work to undo the spoiling,” she agrees. Yes, she’s discussing dung with Finarvi. That’s what all these horse people talk about all the time, right?
Varanis, still grumbling to herself, leans the shovel against the wall and grabs both handles of the barrow again. She gets it moving and this time makes it to the dung heap, managing to tip the contents mostly in the right direction. Turning the wheelbarrow around, she takes it back into the stables and tries to work out where it is meant to be stored. She’s still mostly just grumbling to herself. Finally, she calls out “Serala? Where do I put this thing?” Amazingly, little of her apparent frustration is held in those words.
“Worthwhile work,” Finarvi mutters with a nod. It is said as a statement, no doubt about the dung clearing, but his questioning look at Serala makes it clear it’s a query aimed at her.
“Tip it up and lean the handles against the wall, so rain will not fall in it.” Serala replies with equanimity. A nod of her head to Finarvi, “Worthwhile.” she agrees. A tilt of her head, then, towards the campsite. “I saw you brought a jug, Finarvi. I hope it is filled with something that can be drunk, as opposed to you losing the chamber pot again.”
Finarvi tries to look affronted and fails spectacularly. “It’s good brown beer. Rajar recommended it, so it will probably kill us, or make us wish we were dead come sunrise.”
Varanis parks the barrow. On her way back to the entrance, she stops by her own horses. Doqeia gets a friendly pat on the nose. Manasa almost gets a pat, but the hand is withdrawn swiftly and Varanis gives a sharp “no!” when the horse bares her teeth.
Serala almost visibly winces, “Rajar’s favourite. You’re right. We’re doomed.” she agrees. That thought doesn’t seem to dampen her spirits though, and she pads off towards the camp, seemingly making the assumption the others will follow, and also bring beer with them…
Finarvi scoops up the beer jug and follows her, turning to make sure Varanis is coming too.
Varanis follows Serala and Finarvi, looking about with curiosity. She’s been spending the last couple of nights in the relative luxury of a private room at the inn and was wondering where these two had ended up. “Are you comfortable out here?” she asks politely. She does, indeed, have a jug of beer too and a basket covered with a cloth. She had apparently left them outside the doors when first entering the stable.
“I overnight in the stables.” Serala clarifies. “But you don’t have fires inside.. it would burn the tents.” That is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but Serala isn’t minded to explain Grazelander culture. “So we eat outside, under the sky.” Not to mention, where you can watch for enemies… “So you have not yet left for Boldhome? Many of the others have, I think?”
“Just Rajar and Nala,” Varanis says. “I’m not sure what Dormal is up to. But in a couple of days, I think most of us will be headed to Boldhome. I…” she hesitates, “I wanted to ask what your plans are. I would really like us to stay together, but I know that you aren’t fond of cities.” As she is talking, she unpacks a large loaf of bread, a hunk of white cheese, and some sausage from the basket. She offers the food to both Grazelanders.
Finarvi looks to Serala. “I’ve sent a message back to Grandfather. Hopefully he’ll be appeased if we don’t return this season.” He has found some cups and pours beer for all of them.
The Grazelander woman lifts her eyebrows slightly, “Let us be fair. No-one is ever quite sure what Dormal is up to.” she notes, flipping her fingers in a gentle suggestion of ‘not our circus, not our monkey’. She looks around at the food and beer, then goes to dig in her own pack, producing some dried fruit and nuts to add to the fireside ‘feast’. Finarvi gets a grin, “Really?” she asks, before slipping into her own tongue for a moment. “You don’t think he will send messages about my fertile years being behind me and to find a brawny young stallion for myself for the good of the clans? You are clearly better with words than I, brother-mine!” A swift running commentary on something that amuses and exasperates her, before she tilts her head to Varanis. “I don’t know. I do have duties and indeed… we finished what we set out to do. Berra was very clear that we are not a clan-group, but merely people travelling together. And I miss my clan, for all that I have the dearest member of it here with me now.”
Varanis looks between Finarvi and Serala as the two switch into Grazelander. Her brows furrow for a moment, but her expression clears as she takes a deep breath. “But, are we not Clan now, after joining with the Blue Tree Wyter?” She looks directly at Serala for a moment, blue-green eyes filled with conflicting emotion. “I don’t want to hold you where you don’t want to be, but I had hoped…” She drops her gaze and shrugs, glancing briefly at Finarvi and looking away again.
“I don’t know..” Serala admits. “I have not been able to speak with Berra as I might have wished. I must do that.” She lazes back, folding her hands under her head as she lies on the grass, watching the slowly darkening skies overhead. “I do not know what plans any have. Not Berra, not Rajar. Some, I do not think would share their plans. I came here to fight Lunars. It is simple. And yet, not so much any longer. The only answer is that I do not, now, have an answer.”
Finarvi coughs. “Varanis is right, sister. We are all clan now. I would like to spend more time with the Blue Tree clan, and learn more of their ways and language. But if you want to go home and tell Grandfather which way the river runs, I’ll go with you.” He grins. “I’ll get credit for returning you, even if you do decide to burn his ears off!”
Varanis looks at Finarvi and rewards him with a small smile. “The Lunars are coming. We know it. I intend to fight them, whether it’s here or somewhere else. I was hoping to have you here to help. You are a formidable ally,” she says, her eyes shining with sincerely. “And of course, Finarvi’s skills, would be most welcome too.”
“I would like to learn more languages.” Serala admits. “It… filled me with irritation… in Esrolia, when everyone treated me as a savage and I could not even understand what was being said, beyond the tone and body-talk.” She turns her gaze to Varanis for a moment, “I would ask you to teach me. But you would, I fear, tell Dormal of my progress and then all my fun would be left in ruins!”
“This Dormal sounds like an entertaining person,” he drawls. Finding his cup empty, he takes it upon himself to refill everybody’s cups, whether they need it or not. “Unless you’re Berra.”
“I can’t see any reason to tell my cousin anything about your language skills,” Varanis observes with a mischievous grin. There is a sharp edge to the way she says cousin though.
Serala shakes her head, more rueful than anything else. “Dormal is a sharp stone to Berra’s feet.” she admits. “In the early days, when we were travelling in tandem, and Berra was our de facto leader. Dormal would not accept this and.. perhaps.. was a little more open about it than needed. He has, in fact, never accepted any authority over him, he was in Irrilo’s pay, so looked there but the moment the pay ended? I do not know. His family, he seems loyal to, but.. I don’t know. I can’t read him. Varanis may be able to shed light, but it may be family loyalty prevents that.”
Finarvi looks expectantly at Varanis. Big blue eyes and everything.
“Dormal is… Dormal. I’m mostly certain that he is loyal to Grandmother Saiciae, but his next loyalty is to himself. And his relationship to the truth and to honour is flexible at best. I thought I knew him better, but recently…” She shakes her head. “He’s very, very clever though.”
“Of the last, I have no doubt.” Serala admits. “I like him. I even admire him. But I most definitely do not trust him.” For Serala, that seems to be enough. “I have, truth be told, more difficulties with the unicorn and his rider. I mislike being so openly looked down upon. Barbarian I may be, but I have pride too.” She tilts her head towards Varanis, thoughtful. “So. Do you wish to talk? I am also not blind, and you have seemed on edge.”
“I do, but …” she glances at Finarvi. “Would I be right in assuming that anything we discuss would be shared with him anyway?” There’s no judgement. It’s just an honest question.
Serala gives the question due consideration. “Finarvi is my cousin. But, I think, closer than your cousins necessarily are to you. He is my foster brother, we have fought and bled together, earned glory on the battlefield and tended each others wounds afterwards. He is my right hand. Or sometimes my left hand. It can be difficult to tell.” Finarvi gets a smirk. “However… I can keep confidences from him, as he can from me. On the other hand, I can say that your confidences are as safe with him as they are with me.” A long speech, followed by a large gulp of beer. Serala isn’t quite sure that she is comfortable sharing so much, clearly, for all that you are all clan together now..
Varanis looks at Finarvi thoughtfully.
Finarvi says nothing, just tops up Serala’s mug and lets Varanis have time to think.
With a sudden nod, Varanis seems to come to a decision. “There’s been a lot happening and it’s happening faster than I’ve been prepared for. Frankly, I was regretting not taking you up on your offer to visit the Grazelands. But, I think I am staying in Sartar for now. I seem to have acquired responsibilities, and to be honest, I think the Lunars will strike here soon.” She takes a deep breath and looks at the two Grazelanders. “I have a lot to learn, as you well know,” this with a wry look for Serala. “But I want to be worthy of the honours people keep pushing my way. And to do that, to be that, I need people who will speak truth to me and who will call me out on my mistakes.”
Finarvi smirks wryly. “Serala is very good at that.”
“Yessss.” Serala snorts slightly, “Like Kallyr calling on you ‘and your companions’…” She rolls her eyes, “Don’t worry, I don’t hold it against you, that’s entirely on Kallyr being a… What’s the word, Finarvi? Giant stallion cock? She looks very innocent, surely Serala knows all those words already in tradespeech? “So. Varanis. I like you. And I have always been honest with you. And will continue so to be. As Finarvi says.. I am not known for circling the truth. Especially if I know that people want to hear what I see. Bearing in mind, of course, that my opinions are that.. opinions. And not always right. Although I’m sure you will be shocked to know that..!”
“I can ride rings round the truth for both of us,” Finarvi admits with a grimace. “Serala is the straight-talker.”
Strangely, Varanis almost seems to blush at Serala’s reference to Kallyr ((the part about the companions, not about the cock, because she didn’t understand that one)). She grimaces slightly. “I can’t promise not to be an arrogant idiot from time to time, but I do promise to always hear you out and think about what you are saying. I might need to stop shouting first,” now she’s definitely looking embarrassed, “but if you decide to stay, I will listen.”
“I’m sure I can adapt a bridle into a scold’s bridle for you if you shout too much.” Serala notes with equanimity. “But agreed. I will stay, for the next seasons at least.”
Finarvi gives a dramatic sigh. “I suppose I should stay as well, to save Serala from her giant mouth.”
Varanis looks askance at Serala. “A what?!”
Serala snorts with laughter, “Oh, Varanis. You are an innocent abroad at times. Tell you what, you investigate and by the time you’ve found out, I’ll have had Finarvi do the work to make one. Then you’ll know how big a threat I just made…”
“Will you be wanting that with or without spikes, sister dear?”
Varanis turns immediately to Finarvi with a raised eyebrow and a question in her blue-green eyes.
“Grazelander tradition,” Finarvi answers blandly. “They can come with different… decorative elements. That would increase time and cost,” he addresses that last to Serala.
“You’d charge me?” Serala puts a hand to her heart, “You wound me, cousin!” All innocence, and letting the topic change.. because of course she wouldn’t really carry out her threat. Of course. Really.
Varanis opens up the second jug of beer and offers to fill the now empty cups.
Finarvi accepts, still laughing at Serala’s show. And so the drinking continues, with gentle ribbing and everyone, hopefully, relaxing for a change.